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  I first noticed Joe's work many years ago, long before I had met him.  I had always marveled at the detail he put into his work.  When I finally did meet him online, I found out he's one of the nicest, down to earth artists you would ever meet.  Very polite, humble and always helpful with advice from his many years of makeup experience.  His latest round of classic collector's pieces has put him on the tip of alot of collector's tongues and when you see some of his other  work, you say, "Oh, Joe did that?  Wow!  I didn't even realize"

Don't forget to leave Joe a little feedback at the end of the interview.

 

LMC: What was the draw of monster movies growing up?

JR:  My first recollection of any monster movie was seeing “Twenty Million Miles to Earth” at age 5. The sequence where the helicopter throws the net over the Ymir had me just hypnotized. I knew it wasn’t a guy in a suit…but, what was it? Were monsters real? I couldn’t tell. It was so surreal. That fascinated me to no end.

LMC: Where you into the classic monsters?

JR:   Monsters were monsters to me. I would stay up late at night and idolize the Saucer-Men, She Creature, Tarantula, then on the weekends on local CH 11’s “Family Theatre” I’d watch Lugosi as the Monster, fight Chaney as the Wolfman and think that’s the coolest rumble ever! Monsters weren’t really scary to me. They were friends that really couldn’t dress well. They were esthetic types, who, for some reason, hated conforming to society…kinda like art students.

LMC: Did you have an early talent for art?

JR: On my first day at Kindergarten, the teacher had me passing out the paints and paper for finger painting. I’ve never looked back. The paint was that really thick, cold, green paint. My mother has ALWAYS been into creating something…ceramics, paintings, doll making, puppets, etc. I’m assuming I get that gene from her. I was obsessed with creating something at all times.    I remember walking home from elementary school one day in the blazing heat and thinking to myself, “There’s got to be a way to draw, paint, and sculpt all day and still make a living”. I was obsessed with that. I was so obsessed with sculpting that the first wad of clay I owned was actually stolen from a 3rd or 4th grade class room. (It was a chunk of that red Kleen Klay…the type that comes in a package of brown, grey, and dark green…the kind you can buy it at the 5 & dime.) The teacher knew someone stole it and had us line up outside. He drilled us and was hoping that one of us would break down. I wouldn’t give that clay up for nothing! (Sorry Mr. Ferguson) This stuff was magic and he could threaten all he liked. The clay was mine!

 

LMC: What did you make with the clay?  Anything memorable from those early years?

JR: I can vaguely remember sculpting Godzilla at that time…a fully body sculpt…about 6” high. I remember displaying it on my shelf with my Aurora King Kong model.

 

LMC: What artists did you admire growing up                       

JR: In elementary school I had many influences…many Marvel and DC comic artists…Neil Adams’ Batman…Kirby’s Fantastic Four…etc. I read about and studied Da Vinci and Disney all at the same time. I was really into Maurice Sendack’s “Where the Wild Things Are” and would copy it religiously. I would gaze longingly at the “Wacky Packages” art and marvel at their uncanny likenesses to the real item. (Later in life I found out that Norman Saunders did a lot of those. He’s famous for the 60’s Batman gum card paintings) I would copy images from issues of Sad Sack, Casper and Hot Stuff from the Harvey comics. I also would work on my likeness skills by coping Mort Drucker’s style from Mad. There was also a local artist that did amazing liknesses and editorial cartoons for the Dallas Times Herald…Bob Taylor…who I idolized. His brush strokes were flawless. I wrote to him as a kid and he sent me an original sports piece he did for the paper.

LMC: Were you a natural or did all that practicing start to pay off?  

JR: It’s hard to say. It looked like the subjects at hand to me…but being objective is one of the harder things about creating pieces. Other people responded to the work well …so I figured I was on the right track.

 

LMC: What career goals did you have while in HS and college?


JR: I started shaping up my goals before I got into high school. In jr. high I was selling my drawings for $1 a piece to the other kids, so I knew I was good at drawing. I chose to go to a career development high school in Dallas called Skyline. They had a commercial art class taught by real career artists. I had to audition to get accepted. As a freshman I hung with a guy who was really into Frazetta and that’s where that influence came from. At the same time, I got into Norman Rockwell and honed my likenesses by studying everything he did. At that time, my buddy showed me a book called “Film Fantasy Scrapbook” by Ray Harryhausen, which I flipped through. I was diggin’ all the original monster designs. In one chapter I saw the Ymir from “Twenty Million Miles to Earth” and that made me stop cold. It was the creature from when I was a little kid! I was amazed that this ONE man did all these great creatures, so then and there I chose to go into film. I went through the entire 4 years as commercial art as my major, but I found ways to work stop motion into the class for me and my friends. I went through thousands of feet of super 8 film animating clay, GI Joes, Star Wars action figures, etc. I spent hours and hours in the garage and my parent’s travel trailer, practicing the craft and tremendous patience.  I wanted to do effects in movies. At the time, “American Werewolf in London” had come out and make up had a different face to it. Once in college, I bee-lined it to stage craft classes to learn make up, because there was really no work for a kid in Dallas doing JUST stop motion. The stage craft class really didn’t teach any makeup…they were only interested in having me build sets for the prima donnas to prance around in front of. I was the only one that could work in free form constructions…like tree stumps, rocks, etc. I taught myself make up techniques by living in the school library and reading Richard Corson’s Stage Make Up. I would Xerox it a little everyday and slip the copies in a binder, making my own copy. I practiced on my younger siblings and filmed them on super 8 for prosperity. At some point I came across Savini’s new book (ordered it from Fantaco in Fangoria) and learned blood pumps and life casting.  These were my Bibles. The classes were given less attention and the 8mm camera was given all the attention. I was making films constantly and thought I had landed in heaven when I went to the college’s video department. They had a public access station there that would let you make video productions, edit them, and put them on the air…with out charging you a dime!! Heaven! There go my classes all together. I went everyday into video production and learned how the camera saw things, how to edit images, and learn storytelling and film language. I was apparently so good, that I got my first job at another local public access station as a cameraman and editor.

LMC: You made a major career move by leaving your day job and going into makeup FX.  Talk about that decision.

 

JR:  I had done the 9 to 5 for about a year at this cable station, when they decided to cut my hours and bring on another person. I saw that the move was motivated by reasons other than his abilities…which were nil, so I quit. The day I quit, I totaled my car in the rain. I had to start from scratch. I felt I had to do what I originally wanted, work in film, no matter how impossible that might have seemed at that point. Working for small time cable stations wasn’t my career goal so I did some soul searching while I convalesced. At the time, (‘85) Dallas still had small market UHF TV stations and I would watch this show called “Ch 27 Film Vault”. It was a hosted movie program, but not with a horror theme. The two guys (Richard Malmos and Randy Clower) were more like mine workers maintaining a huge underground vault of the world’s film…(based on the film preservation act signed by Roosevelt!). They would spice it up with film spoofs and assorted creatures making appearances every week. Randy liked effects and found some way to work one in every week. He would do it, or the third partner in the mayhem, Kenny Miller, would pull off the gag. (Kenny was working in the film business at the time professionally.) I wrote them and basically said, “Look, I do effects…I’ve seen the quality you do and I can match it or surpass it. You want any help?” Surprisingly, Randy wrote me back and said sure, come on down. We met and he basically challenged me to come up with a gag in six days based on that next week’s film…”They Saved Hitler’s Brain”. I made an articulated Hitler head for about $10 with a cable activated mouth and delivered it on time. They were blown away. It was light weight, sturdy and resembled Adolf. I learned the basics on that show on how to do things within a small budget and on a time constraint. The show would shoot on a Thursday night and be edited and ready that following Saturday. I had to come up with a gag every week! A situation like that causes you to be incredibly resourceful and inventive. It was a fun and original show that is sorely missed now. I noticed a few years later that MST3K had a suspicious familiar look. Guys in cover alls and hard hats pushing carts full of film cans around.

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